On Friday FIFA’s imperial leader Sepp Blatter admitted what the world has known for quite some time now. Awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake” in an interview with Swiss media outlet RTS.
“Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life.”
That quote will be transmitted all over the world as an admission of the abominable situation FIFA, world soccer, and human rights advocates face in Qatar at the moment. It’s actually the second time in the last year Blatter has called it a mistake publicly.
But naturally, in true FIFA fashion, it’s not the human rights violations reportedly happening in Qatar that led Blatter to admit that it was a mistake. It’s not report after report of the absurd amounts of corruption that put FIFA on par with SPECTRE. No, the mistake is the fact that it’ll just be too darn hot in Qatar in the summer of 2022.
“The technical report indicated clearly that it was too hot in summer, but despite that the executive committee decided with quite a big majority that the tournament would be in Qatar.”
I wonder what could have made FIFA push ahead with something that was such an obvious “mistake” from the beginning. As if the fact that it got hotter than the surface of the sun in Qatar in the summer was a minor footnote in staging a major sporting event. Oh yes, that’s right…
As Lenny from The Simpsons once said, “people make mistakes, that’s why pencils have erasers.”
The question now is what FIFA will do about the Qatari mistake.
Given FIFA’s history, the answer is likely “nothing.”
However, journalists can force FIFA into doing something if more light is shed on either corruption in the organization or workers’ conditions in Qatar.
As we approach the 2014 World Cup, the worldwide pressure will continue to mount for FIFA to move the 2022 tournament out of Qatar. One of the top American sports columnists, Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, is also bringing attention to the troubles of FIFA and the deaths of migrant workers.
As more and more reports emerge of oppressive conditions facing foreign workers like Jeremy Schaap’s excellent ESPN piece, the snowball of investigative journalism exposing what’s happening on the ground in Qatar will continue to build. The situation surrounding the 2022 World Cup will look much worse for FIFA before it gets better. And that’s not to mention questions that will surely loom over the 2018 World Cup in Russia given the current geopolitical climate.
Perhaps the most interesting quote from Blatter isn’t about the bidding process being a mistake, but an admission about the political interests that played a role in Qatar hosting the 2022 tournament.
“No, I have never said it was bought, but that it was due to political considerations. We know full well that big French and German companies work in Qatar but they don’t just work for the World Cup. The World Cup is only a small part of what is going on in Qatar.”
So, it wasn’t a bribe necessarily, there was just political pressure that was put on FIFA to award the tournament to Qatar. Oh, well gee, I’m sure there’s nothing else to see here. What a relief!
Blatter’s unbelievable admissions are a call to arms for outlets like Outside the Lines, The Guardian, and investigative journalistic units around the globe. If FIFA’s president is willing to publicly admit that there were political implications to the Qatari bid, then it’s just the tip of the iceberg with regards to the true happenings inside world soccer’s governing body.
It won’t just be pressure from journalism departments, but television partners as well. Keep in mind last fall it was reported that Fox Sports was not down with a Winter World Cup in 2022 because of the extra competition it would face on the American television landscape. As is always the case with FIFA, money talks. And since Fox will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to FIFA for World Cup rights, they will have a say in the eventual fate of the 2022 tournament.
The most striking truth right now facing the 2022 World Cup is this – there’s still eight years to go before the tournament actually arrives. Eight more years of headlines like these…
Can Sepp Blatter and FIFA survive the pressure cauldron produced by their “mistake” for eight more years? If journalists around the world have their say over that timespan, hopefully the answer is a decisive no.